Epilogue: Six Years Later
The house numbers skipped from eleven to thirteen, but the inconsistency, so long entrenched in the neighborhood as to be another part of the street's "character" went mostly ignored by the passersby. A man appeared as if by magic out from behind a wall and his eyes passed from number eleven, to number thirteen as if he were expecting them to reorder themselves to suit convention. He was a very forbidding man, this figure gazing at the houses, with his black clothes and long black hair severely pulled back from his angular face. He was lean and short, but he gave the impression of looming over those much taller, and the few others out on the street in the blustering weather kept their distance.
Severus glared steadily at the space between number eleven and number thirteen until it obligingly resolved itself into Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. The grimy unkempt Victorian brick buildings around only made the scrubbed and painted number twelve seem brighter and fresher by comparison. The soot and slime that had been collecting on the brickwork for over a hundred years had disappeared, washed and pounded away. He wrinkled his nose as he rapped his fist against the black painted wood door, ignoring the sun faced brass door knocker entirely.
The door opened noiselessly upon Harry Potter and a small turquoise headed boy. "I still can't comprehend why you required my presence," he hissed tiredly as Potter waved him inside.
Harry turned to him and sighed. "He's your brother, and he's six months old, and it's about time you met him." He led him down a window lined corridor. The whispering portraits no longer covered up the windows, and the curtains had been pushed aside to let in the light. In place of Mrs. Black's portrait hung a painting of birds in a fruit tree. Everything smelled of clean linen and milk.
Potter turned his head as if he wanted to say something, but before he did, he noticed Severus' small colorful shadow, imitating his stalk, complete with the way his arms moved and his head tilted, all exaggerated in the movements of the seven year old, whose face, moment by moment had taken on Severus' features. "How many times has your gran told you not to imitate people?" Potter asked him. "You know better."
"You can't follow someone around if you're just going to be rude."
Potter's badly hidden smile softened his scolding, but the boy ignored it. "Awwwwww," he huffed, his hair becoming a bright banana yellow before fading to dark grey, and he sulked off, the Persian rugs muffling his footfalls and frustrating his attempts to properly stomp.
"Teddy's visiting for the week," Potter explained before continuing down the hall. As they passed the drawing room, Severus noticed that the Black family tree had disappeared and a tapestry of an Art Nouveau fox reaching for grapes on a vine.
Harry led him up the stairs to the topmost landing and pushed one of the two doors open as quietly as he could and ushered Snape inside. The Gryffindor banners and photographs no longer littered the walls. He and Ginny had pulled them down and packed them away for James to see when he was older if he chose. Even the Muggle pinup girls had been saved because Harry couldn't bear to throw away anything of Sirius'. They had polished the chandelier, chipped away the wax, and replaced the candles, painted the walls a soft yellow, and hung the tall window with baby blue drapes. An oak crib stood next to a changing table against one wall, lined with blue bedding, and next to the window sat a plush rocking chair where Ginny, a bump just beginning to show through her blouse, slept in the sunlight. She had done that the first time she'd been pregnant as well, taken naps all the time and then not slept at all at night. Harry smiled and put a finger to his lips.
Ginny slept, but James did not. He peered up at his father as Harry lifted him from the crib and rocked him gently. "He's starting to sit up on his own," he told Snape proudly, kissing the baby's cheek and tickling his belly. The baby's soft coo turned to laughter and the laughter turned to joyful shrieking before his father stopped.
Ginny opened one eye, turned over, and slipped back off to sleep, one hand resting protectively over her belly. With her other hand, she squeezed Harry's arm gently, sleepily.
Severus winced and replied sarcastically, "Fascinating."
Harry shot him an exasperated look. "He's your brother," he reminded Snape as he held James out to him. "Take him."
Severus took him awkwardly and held him against his chest. At first the baby looked back to his father almost reproachfully, but then he looked up at Severus and turned to his chest, fisting his hands in Severus' robes.
The eyes that gazed curiously up at him were hazel, but the tuft of hair brushing against his robes was too dark to be Weasley red. It was the same dark red color as Lily Evens', and that was enough to make a difference.
"Does it make a difference, being Muggle-born?"
Snape hesitated. His black eyes eager in the greenish gloom, moved over the pale face, the dark red hair.
"No," he said. "It doesn't make any difference.
Author's Note: I wanted to thank everyone who read or reviewed this fic, especially lothy/lanta who posted the challenge on which this fic is based (and recced it, isn't that awesome?) ObsidianEmbrace who also recced my story, celadonserpent who acted as an unofficial beta for parts of it, and blue_underwing whose insights made reading my email much more fun.
When I started writing this, I thought it would be much shorter, about ten chapters. Had I known it would be this long when I started, I would have expanded the part at the beginning with Eileen and Harry.
I always intended to leave the relationship between Harry and Snape rocky, but I hope I brought it to some resolution. I also intended that the fic fit with the canon epilogue, except that Albus Potter has a different middle name: Alastor, after Mad-Eye Moody.
There are two one shot companion pieces to this story, "Literary Minds" and "Fairytale Princess" which should answer some of the questions I left unanswered in this fic proper. Although I am absorbed with other fanfiction projects at the moment, I doubt they will be the last one shots I write in the "No Difference" Universe.